Back in July, I visited the Home & Gift Buyers’ Festival in Harrogate. It’s a huge trade event where producers display their wares to the retailers and buyers looking to add new lines to add to their websites and shops later in the year. I wrote a series of posts featuring those makers that I met on the exhibition’s ‘Eco Trail’, including some fantastic festive themed firms.
Somehow it’s now December (how?!) and it seems like a great time to draw attention to those companies with a seasonal edge again. Keep This Cracker, Nauseni and The Recycled Candle Company have great stocking fillers as well as everything you need for your Christmas centrepiece.
Let me know what purchases you make!
You can comment below or on social media. And if you’ve enjoyed reading this post, then please do share – it really does make a huge difference!
Upon realising the amount of waste generated each Christmas by single use crackers, Bea Thackeray came up with her own solution: reusable ones!
After some experimentation, she perfected her model. You fill the gift box centre with whatever your choose, thread the snap through and pull as normal – except the whole thing slides apart rather than rips, so you can use them again! All you have to replace are the snaps, which she also sells. Genius!
There are also options for wedding favours and other occasions.
From £3.10 for the crackers; £1.10 for six replacement snaps.
Founded in response to the 2015 Nepal earthquake, Nauseni (now-se-ni) strives to empower Nepalese women by offering skill development and income generating opportunities. The firm works closely with teams of women artisans who they have trained to produce needle felted ornaments that reflect the centuries of wool making crafts in the Himalayas.
You know how there’s wax leftover whenever you’ve finished burning a candle? Well the clever chaps at The Recycled Candle Company go round collecting this seeming waste product from London churches, pubs and hotels then they recycle all the bits into beautiful new ones. Isn’t this the greatest recycling story that you’ve ever heard?!
All of their candles, votives and firelighters are beautiful but check out their miniature Christmas trees!
When Myton Hospices invited me to undertake a style challenge at their new vintage fashion focused Myton Fargo charity shop (so named because of its location on Far Gosford Street, the new creative quarter in Coventry), I got somewhat carried away in creating outfits from their amazing vintage, retro and second hand stock.
Aside from putting together a few separates, these outfits required approximately zero styling on my part.
The garments speak for themselves.
Covering a range of styles and eras, as well as different price points, they highlight the fantastic stock curated by store manager Angela at Myton Fargo.
They also show the huge possibilities that are available if you decide to shop and dress second hand.
To showcase this, I thought I’d bring all these outfits together side by side.
According to my research at the weekend (that’s the kind of dedication I’m willing to undertake for you, dear readers #mayhaveboughtadresswhileIwasthere), a few of these pieces are still available.
But rather than focusing on the specifics, however fab they are, I want to emphasise what you can do with second hand clothes – and some of this is definitely second hand, rather than it’s trendier sibling, vintage.
It may take a bit of effort and commitment to dress this way, but the rewards are huge. Second hand clothes are cheaper, individual and arguably the best way to build an ethical wardrobe.
If you don’t already shop second hand, pop into your local charity shop when you have half an hour to spare and see what takes your fancy.
And please do share with me what you come away with! I’d love to see the results.
Here’s the best of what I found at Myton Fargo.
#OOTD Number One
I fell in love with this blouse as soon as I saw it tucked on the rack. What I wanted to show with this combo is that wearing vintage doesn’t mean impracticality or looking outre – it’s totally possible to mix gorgeous old clothes into a wearable for work look.
At the same time, the unique older pieces stop officewear looking boring. Win win!
£4 for the blouse
£9 for the skirt (complete with original tag saying £25 from Next)
Love this example of Christmas clothing – check out the detail on the blouse for what makes it perfect for December!
£4.00 for the bauble blouse
£7.00 for the skirt
#OOTD Number Three
I labelled ‘Visit to a country pub outfit’ when I was making notes on my choices – sometimes I really do think in fashionese!
Wherever you’d wear this, the two high end items are absolute gems. The Johnstons cape is made of the softest wool; it’s like wearing a blanket. The trousers are an archetypal example of Ralph Lauren – I can’t believe they showed up in the English midlands!
£25.00 for the cape
£25.00 for the trousers
Total = £50.00
#OOTD Number Four
Another day, another insight into the fantasy scenarios I create in my head. I named this ensemble the ‘Someret House ice skating outfit’ (although it’s totally okay to switch that to the Rockerfeller Center ice skating outfit if you prefer!).
The presence of actual ice skating boots makes this slightly less strange, I guess – and they epitomise how diverse the @mytonfargoshop stock really is!
£20.00 for the dress (brand new with labels)
£12.00 for the Topshop faux fur gilet
£10.00 for the ice skates
Total = £42.00
#OOTD Number Five
This Studio 54 esque look is perfect for injecting some disco glamour into your wardrobe at any time of the year – glitz *and* shiny patent flat shoes to dance the night away in.
This was one of the first dresses I spotted during my Myton Fargo adventure and I knew immediately it had to feature. The dress ticks the sequins trend, which will be big this season and for SS18. And of course they are fab for Christmas!
This outfit also demonstrates what great buys high street vintage can be. The dress has the original 1980s/90s Next silk label inside. Anything with this is in a sign of quality. Their clothes were far pricier then than today and signalled a good investment.
This is something I always look out for.
£10.00 for the dress
£12.00 for the shoes, which are Marks and Spencer Limited Collection and look barely worn.
Total = £22.00
#OOTD Number Six
Of all the Myton Fargo outfits I’ve featured, this is one of my faves as each of the three elements is so effing awesome!
1) Vintage midi-dress with a winter floral pattern. The attention to detail is fantastic, and it has a concealed zip under a buttoned top section.
2) Levi jean jacket in a classic style. You’ll never wear this baby out!
3) Gorgeous tan boots. No other description needed.
£6.00 for the dress
£25.00 for the wear-forever Levi jacket
£8.00 for the boots
Total = £39.00
#OOTD Number Seven
I love this combo but that’s true about every single item I’ve included! The coat was amazing quality as well as just all round fabulous. It ended up going home with a volunteer after her first shift at the store!
£35.00 for the coat
£6.00 for the Marks and Spencer Autograph dress
£6.00 for the shoes
Total = £47.00
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October seems to be a bumper month for awareness campaigns. As well as yesterday’s World Mental Health Day, we are mid way through Hospice Care Week.
Hospices provide palliative care to those with life limiting illnesses. This means that patients admitted to hospices do not recover or leave the facility, except perhaps to spend their final few hours at home.
The annual Hospice Care Week is a time of celebration and action intended to raise the profile of hospice care in the UK and change people’s perceptions of them.
My paternal grandmother and aunt were both cared for by a local hospice, as was a friend’s mum. I know that they provide vital emotional support as well as medical supervision during the darkest time that individuals and families face.
Hospices are staffed by doctors, nurses and volunteers, but unlike NHS hospitals, they only receive around one-third of their funding from the government.
As a result, hospices throughout the country rely heavily on charitable giving.
An easy way to support your local hospice during Hospice Care Week and beyond is to frequent their nearest charity shop.
I was delighted when The Myton Hospices, a charity operating three hospices in my area, invited to me to undertake a style challenge at their newest store, Myton Fargo, on Far Gosford Street in Coventry.
Shortly afterwards, I returned to Myton Fargo with a view to shopping for myself. In honour of Hospice Care Week, I thought I’d share two items from that haul with you. Both chime with current and emerging trends from the catwalk, demonstrating that second hand doesn’t mean out of date.
You can use second hand clothes to create first rate fashion.
AW17 Trend: The Cardigan
I’m not a slavish follower of fashion trends but I do love to watch what’s happening on the catwalks as they can (can, not always!) be a great source of creative inspiration.
However distinctive our own style, we could all do with a new twist or turn sometimes. One way to do this is to see what top designers are doing and integrate elements of that into our look.
It’s not about replicating an outfit top-to-toe, even if we could afford to; rather it’s seeing an idea with fresh eyes.
Case in point this season: cardigans.
For the last decade, they’ve been safe in the stylish hands of Michelle Obama while we all donned sweatershirts and jumpers.
Now, as always happens, the fashion tide has turned. It’s all about cardigans again!
Even as an ethical and minimalist dresser, this lured me in like a siren. Oo yes, I thought. A cardigan is just the thing! (Easily influenced? Me? Perhaps).
Myton Fargo provided just the thing: a gorgeous red wine coloured number. It’s chunky knit incorporates interesting detailing, including what I think is moss stitch on the sleeves (I may be wrong on that!).
It’s an easy wardrobe update that’s also warm and comfortable.
Just look at those buttons!
SS17 Trend: Princess Diana
Princess Diana was a huge style icon during her lifetime and twenty years after her death, her influence is having a renaissance.
I was commissioned to write a piece for it but unfortunately was unable to due to struggling with my own mental health issues throughout last week.
I’m not sure if this is actually ironic or Alanis Morisette kind of ironic.
Despite being thwarted in producing a new contribution to this important awareness day, I wanted to proffer something. As all writers know, a round up is always a useful fallback when there’s no time or inspiration for anything else. That is what I’ve turned to: my previous work about mental health collected together with helpful clickable links.
A year ago, maybe even six months, I’d have felt like a failure for doing this so my willingness to accept that this is where I am perhaps to speak to some kind of improvement. I hope so.
Around the time of Glastonbury, there was a lot of buzz in the media about inflatable flamingos being the must-have accessory of the summer. Having spent the last few months scrolling through endless holiday snaps on Facebook and Instagram while impatiently waiting for my late September getaway to roll around, I can confirm that I’ve seen a couple – but nowhere near as many as pairs of Ray-Ban sunglasses.
Home or away, man or woman, couple or single, young or old, I’ve lost count of the number of shades I’ve seen with the distinctive logo in the top left corner. From a friend ordering some of Ray-Ban Aviators customised with her name back at the beginning of May to my beloved red Ray-Ban Clubmasters just unpacked and sitting on my dresser, I’ve encountered them almost as regularly as the ubiquitous summertime adverts for cheap lager.
In the shades
There are now more options for sunnies than ever. Newcomers to the market such as Pala, who support vision projects in Africa through their sales, and Dick Moby, handmade from bio and recycled acetate, cater for the growing number of ethically conscious consumers. Fashion magazines publicise high end firms such as Cutler and Gross as the brand du jour, and I get no end of compliments on my Italia Independent exclusives.
Other companies may have their moment in the sun (remember the popularity of Oakley shades in the nineties?) but still Ray-Ban reign supreme in the world of sunglasses, almost as synonymous as Hoover and vacuum cleaner. According to data from Euromonitor International, in 2016 they were the largest sunglasses brand and commanded 5 percent of the global of the global eye wear market. In 2014, they generated an enormous 2.065 billion euros for their owners Luxottica, an Italian firm who also operate Oakley, Oliver Peoples and pretty much every designer sunglasses range that you can name, including Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, DKNY and Versace.
What is it about Ray-Ban that makes them so popular?
It’s partly down to Luxottica’s management since they took over the company in 1999. They changed the manufacturing process, using modern eyewear technology and vastly improving quality, and rebranded Ray-Ban as a luxury product, all without losing the aesthetics for which the firm was known.
There are other factors too. The widespread ownership of sunglasses helps. Opticians are always reminding us that they aren’t just a fashion item and it seems that we are taking notice, with rising awareness of the need for eye protection credited with boosting worldwide sales. Plus unlike other areas of apparel, sunglasses are purchased by men and women, with one UK survey by Mintel finding that men were almost twice as likely as women to buy designer shaded specs (20 percent compared to 11 percent).
Big Nephew & Niece modelling the beloved Thomas the Tank Engine sunnies, July 2009
In the shades: the enduring appeal of Ray-Ban sunglasses (aka why we all love Ray Bans)
Obligatory cute kid in sunnies pic
Our love of sunglasses often begins early in life. One summer my then three year old nephew couldn’t be parted from his Thomas the Tank Engine frames. Who doesn’t have a childhood photograph of themselves posing proudly in a pair?
Back then sunglasses have a fun, novelty value, but we soon grow to learn that they represent so much more. They are entry level designer goods, a status symbol that is neither too ostentatious nor breaks the bank – particularly if justified on cost-per-wear basis as my friend and I did with her customised Aviators.
The cool factor
Of course no discussion of sunglasses, particularly Ray-Ban, would be complete without reference to the word ‘cool’. Earlier this year, Scrivens Opticians & Hearing Centre commissioned a report which found that over half of the 2,000 British adults questioned considered sunglasses to be the coolest fashion accessory – and a massive two-thirds believed that sunglasses made wearers look instantly more stylish!
Again Ray-Ban dominate these notions of cool. Also earlier this year, in a GlobalWedIndex survey of over 28,000 Internet users aged 16-64, Ray-Ban were voted the coolest luxury brand, with almost 40 percent choosing them over the other sixteen options that included Chanel and Armani.
This perception has developed over the course of the company’s almost ninety year history, encouraged by the many iconic sunglasses wearers who have donned one kind of Ray-Ban or another, including Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Tom Cruise in Top Gun. With the Jackie Ohh, Ray-Ban even created a design for another legendary sunglasses wearer, Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
With this level of pedigree, it’s perhaps unsurprising that we are so heavily drawn to Ray-Ban. A practical purpose, relatively accessible price point and the cachet of a designer brand meets the Hollywood dream factory and fantasy world of the world’s most stylish stars. No wonder we’re loyal fans of the Ray Ban Aviator, Ray Ban Clubmaster, Ray Ban Wayfarer and more: Ray-Ban put all other sunglasses brands in the shade.
I love nothing more than a good rummage in a charity shop so was super excited when Myton Hospices invited me to do a style challenge in their latest store, vintage fashion focused Myton Fargo, Coventry.
Myton Hospices is a charity based in and around Coventry, near to where I live in Warwickshire – right in the centre of England. For the last thirty-five years, their three hospices have provided palliative, end-of-life care to local people. In the UK, although hospices provide vital support to the NHS (National Health Service), they don’t receive any government money. They therefore rely on fundraising to cover all their costs.
Along with events, charity shops (also known as thrift stores, op shops and Goodwill elsewhere in the world) are a central to these fundraising efforts. In 2016, Myton Hospices raised £8.8 million to ensure their essential work could continue (that’s $11.9 million, €9.96 million, ¥1.325 million, AED 43.8 million).
Vintage fashion focus in Myton Fargo
They have twenty-one charity shops around the Coventry and Warwickshire area, and Myton Fargo is the latest, having only opened three weeks ago. For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you may remember my delight and despair on the launch day: delight at the amazing stock, despair at the Carvela loafers that weren’t in my size!
Myton Fargo takes its name from its location on Far Gosford Street. This is the heart of Coventry’s new creative quarter. The shop is directly opposite FarGo Village, a collection of independent businesses including vintage stores, a second hand bookshop, a sustainable clothing manufacturer ethical eateries and a micro-brewery (I’ve previously written about tenants Heaven Vintage and Positive Clothing).
The area’s vibe continues in the Myton Fargo store. The shop is specifically focused on vintage fashion and retro goods, although there some excellent new and nearly new items on the racks and shelves too. Manager Angela had her own vintage fashion business so has an eye for what to stock and every item is hand selected, much of it from the charity’s central storage facility.
The charity shop shopping adventure
My brief to style one outfit with a budget of £20.00 ($27.00, €23.00, ¥3,000, AED 100.00) went out the window within minutes of arriving at Myton Fargo on Saturday morning. There was so much treasure in there that I wanted to showcase more than just one ensemble!
Instead I put together eight looks that I’m featuring on Instagram and Twitter every day this week. Head over and take a look! I’m asking people to guess how much they think each outfit costs and would love to hear your estimates.
And because these eight outfits *still* weren’t enough to do Myton Fargo justice, below are some other examples of their awesome stock.
I want to highlight the range of clothing available in charity shops / thrift stores / op shops. You don’t have to be into vintage to love them! They’re a great place to experiment with new styles, whether vintage or otherwise. You can also pick up pieces that nail current trends without turning to the high street and fast fashion. Plus as you’ll see, workwear and special occasions are catered for as well!
At this risk of stating the obvious, it’s worth reiterating the sustainable element to charity shop shopping too. By buying second hand, you’re keeping textiles out of landfill and recycling perfectly good materials while putting much needed coppers in the pockets of the charity in question.
If you live near to the English Midlands, I’d encourage you to find your nearest Myton Hospices shop and check them out for yourself. Wherever you live, pay your local charity shop a visit and support a good cause while securing a bit of loveliness for yourself!
Your favourite charity shops
Where are your favourite charity shops, thrift stores and op shops? I’m always looking for recommendations so comment below or on social media to share your suggestions. I’d also love to hear about your experiences of charity shopping. What’s been your best bargain? What little gem have you snapped up?
What I found in Myton Fargo charity shop…
This season’s trends
What really stood out for me during my five hours in the Myton Fargo charity shop (yes really – five hours!) was the amount of stock that ticked this season’s fashion boxes. Here are some of my favourite examples!
Red and pink options to try in Myton Fargo charity shop, Coventry
Red and pink options to try in Myton Fargo charity shop, Coventry
Two of the big colours at the moment are red and pink, both of which have a reputation as being difficult to wear. Uncertain as to whether they are for you? Buy something suitably hued from a charity shop and you have a great cheap way to play.
Colour without commitment!
Winter floral midi dress? Yes please! One of the amazing vintage dresses at Myton Fargo charity shop, Coventry
Patterned midi dress? Yes please! Totally on trend, totally a bargain! Size XXL but vintage clothing usually comes up small, plus this could be belted. Cost: £15.00!
I’m normally a bit reluctant to feature Primark clothing in my discussions of second hand clothing, partly because I think even buying used supports fast throwaway fashion, partly because the quality isn’t there. However I couldn’t resist giving this beautiful beaded collar a shout out! It’s an easy way to get on board with the fashion world’s newly rediscovered love of pearls.
The selection of accessories in Myton Fargo was as lust inducing as the clothing, with a whole range of tastes catered for too. I’m again having not-buying-shoes regret but I was so preoccupied with what I could you show you lovely people that I didn’t have the brain space to consider charity shop shopping for myself!
Even if we don’t work in an office with a dress code, sometimes we all need an outfit that’s a little bit smarter. Charity shops can help us achieve that without having to spend full price – but still snapping up some reputable brands. Here are Myton Fargo highlights!
Marks and Spencer Autograph retro style dress, size fourteen, £8.00 ($11.00, €9.00, ¥1200, AED 40.00).
Yes, the C-word in September! But there’s less than one hundred days to go now and I believe that it’s never too early to begin planning for it – especially if it helps avoid a last-minute panic that results in over-spending on something itchy and ill-fitting that you only wear once.
Myton Fargo stocked plenty that would be perfect for a Christmas party or a more formal event. There will be more about this on Instagram and Twitter this week, but for now here’s just one example: never has the Mrs Santa look been so retro fabulous (nor demure!).
Vintage fashion does Christmas in Myton Fargo charity shop, Coventry
Cost for this size small, unlabelled vintage dress: £15.00 ($20.00, €17.00, ¥2.260, AED75.00)
Please note that this post has been sponsored by Heaven Vintage – but all views & enthusiasm are my own!
Browsing a vintage fashion sale always sounds like a good way to spend a Saturday morning to me, but especially so when I heard that Coventry’s FarGo Village favourites Heaven Vintage had created a new way to shop with their ‘Fab Fill A Bag’ events! Fuelled by a lovely filter coffee from The Big Comfy Bookshop, I headed into FarGo’s central atrium to find out more.
We’re all familiar with the usual ways to pay for vintage clothes. Mostly items are individually priced, but there are also sales where customers pay according to weight – typically £15 upwards for a kilo of clothing and accessories, sometimes with an admission fee on top.
However Heaven’s ‘Fab Fill A Bag’ events are different. With their unique concept, you shop the racks and rails full of vintage fashion then take what you want for bagging up. Whatever fits in one bag, you get for £10. Want more vintage clothes and accessoires? Fill another bag for £10.
It’s that simple: a tenner for a bag full of whatever vintage fashion you choose.
Not only is it simple, it’s great value! If your friend chooses all lightweight blouses but you want a beaded dress and a leather jacket, you’re not penalised as you would be at a pay-per-kilo sale where the heaviest items cost the most.
Whatever vintage clothes you fill your bag with, you will be getting a good deal.
Well folded and rolled, you can squeeze a deceptive amount into the clear plastic bags that they provide (sized 39 x 45 in the summer and 56 x 45cm in the winter). You can leave with at least a couple of outfits for the price of one or two cheap items off the high street as well as knowing that that you’re doing your bit for the environment by doing some super cool clothes recycling.
The weight of the bag I filled? 1.75 kg. That would have cost *at least* £26 at a kilo sale.
Instead it cost £10, and I could have got even more goodies in it if I’d wanted to. (You can also win the edit that I selected; check out my Instagram for more info on how!).
There are other reasons for loving the ‘Fab Fill A Bag’ events too. There’s the thrill of uncovering a hidden gem that comes with their deliberately jumble sale vibe. Heaven Vintage owner Angela grew up rummaging around in church halls for treasure and that’s the feeling that she wanted her customers here to experience.
Angela’s presence at the end of the tables is another plus point. She knows her Adidas from her Zandra Rhodes so go chat to her about what you’re looking for – there’s none of the too-cool-for-school vibe that pervades some vintage emporiums. On the contrary, ‘Fab Fill A Bag’ has a refreshingly friendly atmosphere.
I chatted to first time visitors (including a mother and daughter from Minnesota in the States!) as well as Heaven regulars. Monthly customer Susie told me that she loved coming because it allows you to dress a bit wacky. She is totally right.
Because of the low prices, you’re not afraid to experiment with items that you perhaps wouldn’t normally try.
This is true for vintage connoisseurs as much as complete newbies to the scene. Alongside some new branded and high street goods (I saw several unworn ASOS dresses, complete with original tags), there are retro classics including cut-offs, plaid shirts and wax jackets.
The huge range of different styles represented on the hangers covers various decades and offers something for all tastes.
There’s everything from classic British labels to US imports to rarer European brands.
You’re bound to find at least one piece, no doubt more, that makes your heart go a-flutter. Several days later, I’m still slightly gutted that I missed out on an amethyst Liz Claiborne edge-to-edge wool coat. Damn that Susie! I’ll be sharpening my elbows when I see her at the next one 🙂
The next Fab-Fill-A-Bag sale is Saturday 16th September (11am to 4pm) and Sunday 17th September (11am to 3pm) at FarGo Village, Far Gosford Street, Coventry, CV1 5ED. For more information, check out Heaven Vintage’s Facebook page.